The Germixit

At the end of the Second World War, and the defeat of the Third Reich, the Americans found themselves faced with a tough choice: Considering that West Germany, unlike France, is not self-sufficient in agri-food, if she was left to her fate in the execrable conditions where she was, that would have been a gift to the soviet bloc of then and the Americans did not want this choice. The second option, retained by the Americans, was to move towards a robust stowage of Germany in the US, while being aware of the exorbitant financial cost of this operation (Marshall Plan) for the American people who had just completed the war. For the next forty-five years, the Americans’ relationship with the Germans was so intense and reciprocal that, at times, it made envy Britain, a traditional ally of the Americans. By comparison, the Americans did not make any special effort to help the British get out of their financial stagnation of the seventies, a constraint that has, among other things, pushed Britain into the arms of Continental Europe.

During the period mentioned, the export of the Federal Republic of Germany to the USA broke records and, for their part, American companies preferred to domicile their subsidiaries and / or representations for Europe, Africa and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in Germany rather than Britain. It was the golden age of US-German relations that ended with the new configuration of the EU and the entry into force of the Euro in the nineties of the last century.

But if, during this prosperous period, the Germans excelled in exporting to the US market, they were far from doing as well in their export to the markets of their immediate neighborhood. In the latter case, countries, particularly France, Italy and Spain, did not hesitate to devalue their currencies to maintain their intra-European market shares or in the MENA zone and in Africa, in the face of the German competition. The lever of the devaluation, then freely used by the southern states of Europe, was a source of crippling financial losses for German exports and impossible to predict since it depended on the political will of sovereign countries. The « Made in Germany » was therefore powerless against these hazards that gave recurrent cold sweats to German operators.

This competition, internal to the old continent, was, however, beneficial for operators in Africa and elsewhere. If it is true that the Germans, who do not hide it, consider France, not speaking of Italy or Spain, as a poor competitor for them, they were nevertheless obliged to review their prices if they wanted to sell at Morocco or elsewhere in Africa. In the other direction, an exporter from our continent kept a minimum of room for maneuver and could, if not satisfied with a transaction on a first European country, offer his product for sale in another country on the northern Mediterranean shore. This was the case in particular for the export of canned sardines where the safety standards were different from one European country to another.

With the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, relations between Germany and the US, which until then had been highly privileged, began to decline and, after the entry into force of the Euro, to deteriorate further. In this vein, a historian witness of the time told me that after the speech of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in December 1941, asking the US Congress to declare war on the Empire of Japan, following the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, people expected to see the American soldiers leave the next day to fight with the Japanese. On the contrary, the Americans first began by building weapons factories in the center of the country because, as they said, we know when we are entering a war but we do not know when the war will end, so we have to prepare well. It is therefore possible that, once again, the Americans have prepared for a long financial and commercial confrontation with Germany, Guardian of the Euro. In this respect, the blow of the “dieselgate” is a master stroke if one considers the brutal, deep but well-founded tarnishing of the more than 100-year-old reputation of the flagship of the Germanic industry, namely the German car.

Then, to the extent that Uncle Sam, through the voice of its current president, considers that the Euro poses a serious risk to US economy, it is not excluded that other harmful revelations on the « Made in Germany » emerge in the future, further damaging the country’s overall reputation. In fact, the new configuration of the EU, with instrumentalization of the Euro, poses an even greater risk to the African economy, creating a de facto European monopoly on the continent’s wealth without us Africans, unlike the US, have any suitable means at our disposal to defend ourselves.

But, the Germans must surely be aware of the risk that will weigh more on them if the German-American relations were to continue to deteriorate. Nowadays, the Germans face, in their turn, a tough choice: Germany can choose to maintain the status quo, which has allowed it to generate colossal trade surpluses which it is reluctant to share with other EU countries. But in this case, in addition to external recriminations, which aim to isolate Germany, coming from Russia, Turkey, China and others, there will be  the growing frustration of its partners of the EU to stigmatize it within of the Union. The second, more sensible option is to listen to the German people whom the late Chancellor Helmut Kohl forced to adopt the Euro against their will, and to return to a situation of appeasement with the US, Germany’s traditional godfather of the after war era. It will also placate us in Africa by giving us a minimum of leeway to sell our products at fair prices in markets outside Africa.